Angèle Dubeau et La Pietà JEAN FRANÇAIX Gargantua et autres plaisirs


Jean Françaix (1912-1997) was something of a chronological anomaly. He came of age in the era when neo-Classicism was in vogue and the influence of Les Six was ascendant, and those trends came to inform the musical style that he continued to practice with little fluctuation throughout his long life. His Gargantua, for speaker and string orchestra, dates from 1971, the same year Elliott Carter wrote his Third String Quartet, but it could easily have been written in the 1930s, as could the other works recorded here, L'heure du Berger (1972) and Sérénade B E A (1955). The friendly harmonic language, melodic invention, formal clarity, and pervading tone of whimsicality set them far apart from just about any aspect of the prevailing modernism. The 40-minute Gargantua uses as its basis an absurd fable by Rabelais, and the music offers a pleasant, unobtrusive background to the narration. The text is in French, and no translation is provided so, it's likely to have limited impact on non-French speakers. The two purely instrumental works have a higher musical profile and are more immediately appealing. Without the constraint of keeping from covering the text, Françaix is less inhibited in his invention, and many of the movements are unabashedly dancelike, with a playful wit. Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau and her string ensemble La Pietà play with an appropriate elegance and delicacy. The sound is crisp and present. The album should appeal to fans of light, well-crafted music, particularly of the Gallic variety. (Stephen Eddins)

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  1. Can anyone explain composers' insistence on 'speakers' in so many works of modern times ?
    Had I wished to go to the theatre.....!

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